2008: The Year of the Election

Despite the veritable deluge that enveloped Hamilton Saturday afternoon, March 8, Colgate students gathered at the Palace Theater for the afternoon presentation of “Bhangra the Vote.”

The event, organized by the South Asian Cultural Club, combined entertainment and delicious traditional cuisine with a playful attempt to educate the audience about the politics of the region on which the club is based.

The festivities began with appetizers served at the table, followed shortly by an introduction of the candidates in the electoral process that the subsequent skits would detail. Skillfully incorporating technology into the presentation, the audience was directed to watch a video in which members of the club played the role of news anchors, presenting brief clips used to introduce the three politicians in question: Mr. Kashif Ahmed of the National Democratic Party, Mrs. Nisha Rose of the People’s Republican Front and Mr. Kunal Shetty of the Green Tea Party.

The film then directed the audience’s attention to the “live correspondents” on stage that proceeded to report on a political rally. During the course of the rally, the commentators wove facts about South Asian politics into their dialogue, and the candidates themselves strategically mentioned certain ploys, such as celebrity endorsements, that play a large role in the electoral process. The party leaders also stressed the importance of the sport of cricket to the nation and encouraged a demonstration of a traditional dance routine.

Following the rally, an intermission allowed the audience time to eat the tasty buffet style meal catered by the Sahota Palace Indian restaurant. Upon the recommencement of the presentation, the candidates participated in a debate, which the reporters were quick to emphasize is not a typical custom in the region’s government selection process. In the course of the debate, candidates used incriminating footage and mudslinging to degrade their opponents, even causing one to drop out.

However, despite the dirty politics, the actors were also careful to direct the debate in the direction of real problems affecting the South Asian region, such as free trade, education and implementing a welfare-type system.

The election concluded with neither of the remaining parties garnering enough of the public’s vote necessary to secure office, another carefully constructed conclusion used to inform the audience that events such as this occur often when there are over 200 political parties to choose from in a given election. It was revealed that incidents such as these result in a multi-party system in which multiple smaller groups unite to form a coalition in order to secure the adequate percentage of votes.

By combining a compelling show with distinct factual relevance, viewers were able to remain engaged and also feel as if they had expanded their knowledge of international politics. “Bhangra the Vote” was both an educational and entertaining experience for the audience, who were able to enjoy a great meal while broadening their cultural horizons. Attending an event like this was immensely rewarding, because sometimes getting a little distance from the Colgate bubble, even if it’s not actually physical separation, is very necessary.